By Matt Johnson
Making distinctions between different levels of a system is an important first step to thinking about systems in a systematic way. But how can this be accomplished?
This can be accomplished by utilizing Diagram 1 as a visual aide. As Diagram 1 illustrates, the United States is the primary system, or general system, whereas the Region, Division, State, County, City, Zip Code, Census Track, and Block Group are all sub-systems of the United States.
And in this blog, distinctions will be made between the labor forces in the Minnesota system, the Hennepin County System, and Minneapolis system. Making these distinctions will help partition out where these respective systems reside in the grand scheme of things, and how their respective labor forces differentiate from each other. But first, two terms will be defined: labor force and system.
What is a labor force?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a labor force is a population of workers who are either working in the marketplace or who are actively looking for work in the marketplace.
Indeed, we should note a labor force does not account for those persons not participating in the marketplace. The point here is we will be looking at those citizens who are actively engaged in the marketplace via the Minnesota labor force, the Hennepin County labor force, and the Minneapolis labor force.
What is a system?
The simplest definition contains three parts, or three conditions: a system contains elements, these elements interact, and a function is produced from this interaction. These elements could be a small group of elements or a large group of elements. Of course how elements exist in the system is either observable or unobservable (we will not address the unobservable or uncountable in this blog).
This means a person could observe nine baseball players in dark-blue jerseys on a baseball diamond. These baseball players would then be the elements of the system. Furthermore, these nine baseball players in dark-blue jerseys would be interacting with each other, while out in the field or while hitting, throughout the nine innings of the game. And the interactions in this small system would produce an outcome for the baseball team in dark-blue jerseys (possible outcomes produced would be a win or a loss).
For purposes of this blog, we will assume these three conditions are satisfied.
The Labor Force
To recall, we will focus on three levels of the nine-level system presented in Diagram 1: state, county, and city. Before proceeding, we should note that the systems levels of metro area, district/ward, and neighborhood were not included in Diagram 1 for brevity (those levels of the system will be examined in future blogs).
First, and moving forward, what kind of systems behavior should we see in the state labor force? That is, should we see positive, negative, or no growth since 2006?
As we can see, the labor force of Minnesota has been trending upwards since at least the 1st Quarter of 2006. Indeed, we also see that the market has fluctuated quite a few times, but it’s important that we understand that this fluctuation is normal behavior for a stochastic (probabilistic) system such as a labor force. So when we say the labor force of Minnesota has been trending upwards since at least the 1st Quarter of 2006, we are saying the overall behavior of the system has been positive.
Second, what kind of systems behavior should we see in the county labor force? That is, should we see positive, negative, or no growth since 2006?
Much like the Minnesota labor force, we can see in Graph 2 that the Hennepin County labor force has been trending upwards since 2006 as well. Sure! It to has fluctuated throughout, but again, that’s to be expected in a probabilistic system such as a marketplace.
Third, what kind of systems behavior should we see in the city labor force? That is, should we see positive, negative, or no growth since 2006?
In the observations of the three levels of the Minnesota system, we see that the Minneapolis labor force has been trending upwards since 2006 as well. Again, we observe peaks and valleys in the data, but the overall behavior has been positive. Thus we have seen positive growth over a ten-year period at the state, county, and city levels of the system, and making these distinctions has enlightened us by delving a bit deeper into the economic system of Minnesota.
Here are some questions we might want to ask ourselves. Would we continue to see this positive labor force growth over the past 10 years if we examined various zip codes in Minneapolis? By making distinctions and partitioning out say the 55411 and the 5549, would we see similar growth in both zip codes, for example? Would we see this same positive behavior if we examined various Minneapolis neighborhoods like Seward, Fulton, or Jordan, or would we see differences? And finally, would we see this same positive behavior if we examined various areas – a census track or block group – located inside various Minneapolis neighborhoods?
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